Most of us know how to stay afloat but not all of us have been trained to win the race. It's the same with writing. Professional writers and editors have specialist training to structure and polish words to create a dynamic and professional document. They also know what is grammatically correct. A writing consultant will make your document or website more professional as well as save you valuable time and energy.
No. In this age of information overload, less is more. You're lucky if someone skims your document, especially electronic text which is harder to read than print, let alone read it. Clear, concise writing that readers easily understand is far more likely to get results.
No. Plain English is not simplistic language. Even complex concepts and legal documents, such as contracts and legislation, have been written in plain English and are still legally accurate.
No. Plain English is beautiful language because it conveys meaning on the first reading in a way the reader can relate to. There is nothing beautiful about pages and pages of paragraphs full of buzz words, jargon and unnecessary padding phrases that no one understands or has time to read.
Dashes are used:
1. For clear, decisive parenthesis that elaborates on something:
The dancers – an energetic young group – jived all night.
2. To gather together a group of words and lead into a summation of them:
The white dress, the delicate veil, the satin shoes – her wedding attire laid out before her.
3. For a dramatic or melodramatic ending:
My daughter slipped from her horse – into the mud.
4. To introduce an afterthought:
She was playing the violin – a moving piece I thought.
Hyphens are used:
1. In compound words that are to be read together because they have a single meaning:
2. In the majority of compounds used as adjectives, whether they come before or after the word they are attached to:
blue-black [adjective + adjective] The berries were blue-black.
travel-weary [noun + adjective] We were travel-weary.
3. Number compounds:
4. After certain prefixes:
If you’re not sure whether a word should be hyphenated, check the Macquarie Dictionary or the Australian Oxford Dictionary.
‘Em’ and ‘en’ rules
What is generally referred to as the dash is known to typesetters as an ‘em rule’ ( — ) or ‘en rule’ ( – ). An en rule is generally about half an em.
Em and en rules can be spaced (a space on either side of the dash) or unspaced (no spaces either side). The style recommended for Australian government publications is the unspaced em rule.
Finding the em and en rules on Word 2007
Go to ‘Insert’, click on the small arrow under ‘Symbol’, click on ‘More symbols’ then click on ‘Special Characters’.
The shortcut key for an em dash is Alt+Ctrl+Num -
The shortcut key for an en dash is Ctrl+Num -
More about dashes and hyphens
Style Manual for Authors Editors and Printers 2003 6th edn, John Wiley & Sons, Australia, pages 88–94 (hyphens) and 106–109 (dashes).
Quotation marks (also known as inverted commas) are used mainly for:
Direct speech. For example: 'Please be on time tomorrow', she said.
The quoting of spoken or written words belonging to people other than the author. For example: A number of the demonstrators 'acted violently' according to a witness.
When a quotation is longer than about 30 words (or likely to run more than two printed lines), it is usually typeset as a block without quotation marks, but in a smaller size than the rest of the text.
A lengthy piece of direct speech is set the same size as the text. There is an opening quotation mark at the beginning of each paragraph and a closing one only at the end of the concluding paragraph.
Don't put quotation marks around quotations that are indirect. For example: He said that the invoice could not be correct. But He said, 'The invoice is incorrect'.
Single or double?
In Australia and the United Kingdom both single and double quotation marks are widely used; in North America double quotes are the norm.
Single quotation marks are recommended for Australian Government publications in keeping with the trend towards minimal punctuation. Double quotation marks are then used for quotes within quotes. For example: 'The demonstrators "acted violently" did you say?' asked the journalist.
Professor Jeff Bennett, Crawford School of Economics and Government, Australian National University.
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